What I Wish I Knew Before My First Show
Over the past few years of competing, I’ve made a few mistakes along the way to looking good for shows. I hope I can help you avoid some potential pitfalls on your own fitness journey by sharing my personal experience, as well as judges’ opinions on what “looks good” on stage. But like I always say, if you’re happy with your look, rock it…and stick with it.
A suit cut can absolutely make-or-break your physique, which ultimately affects your placing. A great cut can enhance your physique, while a bad one can just as easily hurt it. Do some research when you’re ordering your suit; you don’t need to spend a grand to have a winning suit, but you wouldn’t want the cheapest one either. Also beware of online suit makers as you may be hugely disappointed. If at all possible, find a suit maker that you can visit in person so that you can physically see all the options for fabrics, stones, and connectors. You can also discuss exactly what you want and be measured correctly. Remember, a color that you like will not necessarily look good on you once you are spray tanned and up on stage. You have to take into consideration your hair color, natural skin color, etc. Ask your suit maker for colors that would complement you. I personally always avoid gold, silver, orange, coral, lime green, bronze, and pastel colors. Look at what the pros are wearing and bring pictures for your suit maker. They might be able to tell you which style could look good on you too.
For my first show, I matched my eyeshadow to my suit color. This is something I see quite often. If you’re competing on stage, it’s very likely that your suit is a bright, non neutral color. Matching eyeshadow might look cool in person, but it doesn’t translate well on stage. Stick with neutral colors: either pick a simple eye with a bold lip color, or a bold eye with a simple lip color. Just don’t use silver on the brow bone. It shines like a disco ball under stage lights and has a tendency to make you look cheaper and older.
To be honest, you should just leave competition makeup to the professionals. Every day makeup, photoshoot makeup, and competition makeup are all very different. I can do my own every day casual makeup, but I never do my own competition makeup. I’m sure if I practiced enough I could manage, but on the day of competition that’s the last thing I want on my mind. I’d much rather sit back, relax, mentally prep myself and have a professional artist do it. The two times I did my own show makeup I didn’t look good on stage. Your spray tan will never be the same color, so the makeup you bought probably won’t match either. Your makeup has to look great 10-15 feet away. Up close you’re probably going to look like a hot mess, but from the judge’s perspective you will look perfect. I’ve seen competitors get hurt in their placing because their face doesn’t match their spray tan color, or the makeup is too subtle, muddy, or clownish. I know makeup artists are not cheap, but don’t throw all of your hard work down the drain and skimp on the final touches.
It is easy to mess up the spray tan. If you have never had a spray tan before, don’t expect it to come out perfectly when you do it yourself. I have used a number of tanning products and you will probably have to as well. Not all spray tan products will work for everyone, so you won’t know until you try it. It is extremely important to follow the skin prep directions the week before you tan. If you don’t follow the directions, you could start turning green or you may look blotchy. I’ve seen countless upon countless bad spray tan jobs back stage. I could tell who didn’t follow the skin prep instructions the week prior and who did-it-themselves at home. Your tan will either hurt you or help you, I guarantee it. If you look good before your spray tan and you followed all the skin prep directions, your physique will look absolutely amazing after the tan.
Your hair should be your crowning touch, so don’t ruin your look with bad hair. Updos and ponytails aren’t flattering and do not draw the eyes of the judging panel. Another no go is big, teased up hair that I still see from time to time. Bump Its are making a comeback, but I don’t think they look good and would put them in the “no” category. Frizzy or unruly natural hair also doesn’t look good on stage and will ruin your overall look. Try to go for Victoria’s Secret hair with soft wavy curls or long sleek hair that has been flat ironed.
Mall jewelry usually doesn’t look good on stage. For my first competition, I discovered that my expensive mall jewelry didn’t sparkle on stage and I was now stuck with jewelry that had no use. I recommend you buy your stage jewelry from Glam Competition Jewelry or All That Glitters Gems. If you’re petite, don’t buy the 5″ long earrings. They are too long and will overpower your look. On the other hand, if you’re tall and have long hair, long earrings are bold enough to help you stand out. Maybe some of you love your bling—that’s great—but try not to overdo it. Two bracelets, earrings, and maybe a ring should be enough. Do not wear a necklace or tiara. No one wears these and they do not look polished or professional. These will definitely bring you attention, but for all the wrong reasons.
Posing is an easy way to bump up your placing and to present your physique well on stage. Watching YouTube videos will not help your posing skills because it’s very difficult to see the small little details that the athletes are doing to achieve that pose. I recommend hiring a posing coach and practicing what you are taught on your own as much as you can. Don’t forget to practice in competition heels—not barefoot, not in your go out heels, but your competition heels. I have seen several girls literally fall down while walking on stage, or almost crash while trying to pose. Steve Weinberger said it best: “They are in control, I just judge what they give me, if they give me a winning body, they get a winning body, if they give me a losing body they walk away with a losing body.” Competing, especially for the women’s categories, requires a head to toe package. Most people have the look on stage, but they tend to forget their posing. I still work on posing because it doesn’t come naturally to me. If you’re wobbling in your competition heels, wear them in the house. Wear them as much as you can until you feel confident in them.
Let’s consider shoe options. I personally prefer the Ellie brand. My go-to shoe is the Ellie M-Brook. It’s a simple, clear heel with an ankle strap and the lowest available platform. A higher platform will only make walking and balancing more difficult, and if it’s too high of a platform, they can look like dancer shoes. Although this style is also available without the ankle strap, the straps helps me balance better. Your placing won’t be affected either way. If you want stones on them, that’s ok, though I prefer nothing on my shoes. When I’m on stage, I want the judges looking at my physique and not at my feet. Buy a few pairs and size down from your normal heel size. So if you are a size 8, buy a size 7. Unfortunately, these shoes do not come in half sizes. Use one pair for practice and one for competition. I wear one pair 2-3 times until they fit perfectly and then I take them off and don’t put them back on until show day. I wear the other pair for all of my posing practice until they are too stretched out. At that point I buy another practice pair. If your new shoes are a little too tight, a couple of seconds under a hair dryer will help relax the plastic. Be careful to not overdo it because once it’s stretched out it won’t stretch back. I hope my mistakes will help you eliminate easily preventable don’ts for your first or next show. Although some factors are out of our control, there are many more that aren’t. There is no sense in spending months training and dieting to have small details like these hurt all the hard work you have done. I definitely wish I knew this before I competed in my first show.